I get it, most of us haven't cured cancer. So, how do you make your involvement in Boy Scouts seem as if you had? The answer lies in one word: passion. You have to show your activities mean something. Essentially, you are the door-to-door salesman and the AdCom's are potential buyers. If you simply state the facts about your car- "This is a 2008 Toyota Camry, pretty basic and simple," your potential client will be turned off. Now, if you brand your vehicle as a "hot-rod" that is both sporty and luxurious, the same potential clients will be willing to hear you out.
And that is the key of a good college or scholarship essay. There is a 99.9% chance that the essay alone will not get you into College X, but it sure can take you out of contention. A solid college essay will be devoid of any blatant errors and be appealing enough to give an AdCom a reason to review the rest of your application.
I digress. So, how EXACTLY does one transform his or her seemingly ordinary experience into a world changing activity? You must convey your earnest belief that what you are doing has, is, and will have a positive impact on the world. If we take the Boy Scout example, one could state how the leadership skills he learned through hiking trips and service has enabled him to take a fast-track towards a life of serving his community. Maybe, through volunteering at a nursing home, you discovered your passion for becoming a geriatrician.
I will give my own personal example. As a Muslim, I was the victim of Islamophobia by some ignorant people in my community. As a 14 year old, I didn't think I could do anything to tackle this issue. But then, I developed a youth program at my mosque for Muslim kids to have a safe place to learn and spend time at, as well as conduct good works for the community. In actuality, the attendance at our bi-monthly meetings usually never eclipsed 10-15 people, and not everyone was as enthusiastic about it as I was, but I sold my idea to AdCom's. And, solid essays not only help for college admissions, but also for scholarships as well. My involvement in establishing the youth program was the focal point of one of the essays I wrote for the Coca Cola Scholarship, and in my interview with the staff, they told me how much they appreciated my initiative (but that's another article for later). It was for this reason that I won the $20,000 Coca Cola Scholarship.
Ergo, it is not what you have done over the past four years, but how you put it. The key to writing a successful college essay is portraying what you have learned from your experiences, both good and bad, and how you will use said experiences to make a difference in the lives of others in the future.